NEW YORK CABBIES were a unique breed. Fearless to a fault, they sped and swerved through crowded streets with unnatural calm. To save my sanity, I’d learned to focus on the screen of my smartphone instead of the cars rushing by only inches away. Whenever I made the mistake of paying attention, I’d find my right foot pushing hard into the floorboard, my body instinctively trying to hit the brakes.
But for once, I didn’t need any distractions. I was sticky with sweat from an intense Krav Maga class, and my mind was spinning with thoughts of what the man I loved had done.
Gideon Cross. Just thinking of his name sent a heated flare of longing through my tightly strung body. From the moment I first saw him—saw through his stunning and impossibly gorgeous exterior to the dark and dangerous man inside—I’d felt the pull that came from finding the other half of myself. I needed him like I needed my heart to beat, and he’d put himself in great jeopardy, risking everything—for me.
The blare of a horn snapped me back to the present.
Through the windshield, I saw my roommate’s million-dollar smile flashing at me from the billboard on the side of a bus. Cary Taylor’s lips had a come-hither curve and his long, lean frame was blocking the intersection. The taxi driver was hitting his horn repeatedly, as if that would clear the way.
Not a chance. Cary wasn’t moving and neither was I. He lounged on his side, bare-chested and barefooted, his jeans unbuttoned to show both the waistband of his underwear and the sleek lines of his ripped abs. His dark brown hair was sexily mussed and his emerald eyes were bright with mischief.
I was suddenly struck with the knowledge that I would have to keep a dreadful secret from my best friend.
Cary was my touchstone, my voice of reason, my favorite shoulder to lean on—and a brother to me in every way that mattered. I hated the thought of having to hold back what Gideon had done for me.
I wanted desperately to talk about it, to get help working it out in my head, but I’d never be able to tell anyone. Even our therapist could be ethically and legally bound to break our confidence.
A burly, neon-vested traffic cop appeared and urged the bus into its lane with an authoritative white-gloved hand and a holler that meant business. He waved us through the intersection just before the light changed. I sat back, my arms around my waist, rocking.
The ride from Gideon’s Fifth Avenue penthouse to my apartment on the Upper West Side was a short one, but somehow it felt like an eternity. The information that NYPD detective Shelley Graves had shared with me just a few hours earlier had changed my life.
It had also forced me to abandon the one person I needed to be with.
I’d left Gideon alone because I couldn’t trust Graves’s motives. I couldn’t take the chance that she’d told me her suspicions just to see if I’d run to him and prove that his breakup with me was a well-crafted lie.
God. The riot of emotions I felt had my heart racing. Gideon needed me now—as much as, if not more than, I needed him—yet I’d walked away.
The desolation in his eyes as the doors to his private elevator separated us had ripped me open inside.
The cab turned the corner and pulled up in front of my apartment building. The night doorman opened the car door before I could tell the driver to turn around and take me back, and the sticky August air rushed in to chase the air-conditioning away.
“Good evening, Miss Tramell.” The doorman accompanied the greeting with a tap of his fingers to the brim of his hat and waited patiently while I swiped my debit card. When I’d finished paying, I accepted his help out of the back of the cab and felt his gaze slide discreetly over my tearstained face.
Smiling as if everything were okay in my world, I rushed into the lobby and headed straight for the elevator, with a brief wave at the front desk staff.
Turning my head, I discovered a svelte brunette in a stylish skirt-and-blouse ensemble rising to her feet in the lobby seating area. Her dark hair fell in thick waves around her shoulders, and her smile graced full lips that were a glossy pink. I frowned, not recognizing her.
“Yes?” I replied, suddenly wary. There was an avid gleam in her dark eyes that got my back up. Despite how battered I felt and probably looked, I squared my shoulders and faced her directly.
“Deanna Johnson,” she said, thrusting out a well-manicured hand. “Freelance reporter.”
I arched a brow. “Hello.”
She laughed. “You don’t have to be so suspicious. I’d just like to chat with you a few minutes. I’ve got a story I’m working on, and I could use your help.”
“No offense, but I can’t think of anything I want to talk to a reporter about.”
“Not even Gideon Cross?”
The hairs on my nape prickled. “Especially not him.”
As one of the twenty-five richest men in the world, with a New York real estate portfolio so extensive it boggled the mind, Gideon was always news. But it was also news that he’d dumped me and gotten back together with his ex-fiancée.
Deanna crossed her arms, a move that accentuated her cleavage, something I took note of only because I was eyeing her again with more care.
“Come on,” she coaxed. “I can keep your name out of it, Eva. I won’t use anything that identifies you. This is your chance to get a bit of your own back.”
A rock settled in the bottom of my stomach. She was so exactly Gideon’s type—tall, slender, dark-haired, and golden-skinned. So very unlike me.
“Are you sure you want to go down this road?” I asked quietly, intuitively certain she’d fucked my man at some point in the past. “He isn’t someone I’d want to cross.”
“Are you afraid of him?” she shot back. “I’m not. His money doesn’t give him the right to do whatever the hell he wants.”
I took a slow, deep breath and remembered when Dr. Terrence Lucas—someone else who was at odds with Gideon—had said something similar to me. Now that I knew what Gideon was capable of, how far he would go to protect me, I could still answer honestly and without reservation, “No, I’m not afraid. But I’ve learned to pick my battles. Moving on is the best revenge.”
Her chin lifted. “Not all of us have rock stars waiting in the wings.”
“Whatever.” I sighed inwardly at her mention of my ex, Brett Kline, who was front man for a band on the rise and one of the sexiest men I’d ever met. Like Gideon, he radiated sex appeal like a heat wave. Unlike Gideon, he wasn’t the love of my life. I was never going to wade in that pool again.
“Listen”—Deanna pulled a business card out of a pocket of her skirt—“pretty soon you’re going to figure out that Gideon Cross was using you to get Corinne Giroux jealous enough to come back to him. When you smell the coffee, call me. I’ll be waiting.”
I accepted the card. “Why do you think I know anything worth sharing?”
Her lush mouth thinned. “Because whatever Cross’s motivation was for hooking up with you, you got to him. The iceman thawed a bit for you.”
“Maybe he did, but it’s over.”
“That doesn’t mean you don’t know something, Eva. I can help you figure out what’s newsworthy.”
“What’s your angle?” I’d be damned if I would sit back while someone took aim at Gideon. If she was determined to be a threat to him, I was determined to head her off at the pass.
“That man has a dark side.”
“Don’t we all?” What had she seen of Gideon? What had he revealed in the course of their … association? If they’d had one.
I wasn’t sure I’d ever get to the point where thinking of Gideon being intimate with another woman didn’t trigger ferocious jealousy.
“Why don’t we go somewhere and talk?” she cajoled.
I shot a glance at the staffer at the front desk, who made a good show of politely ignoring us. I was too emotionally raw to deal with Deanna, and was still reeling from the conversation with Detective Graves.
“Maybe some other time,” I said, leaving the option open because I intended to keep tabs on her.
As if he sensed my uneasiness, Chad, one of the night crew at the front desk, approached.
“Ms. Johnson was just leaving,” I told him, consciously relaxing. If Detective Graves hadn’t been able to pin anything on Gideon, a nosy freelance reporter wasn’t going to do better.
Too bad I knew what kind of information could be leaked from the police, and how easily and often it was done. My father, Victor Reyes, was a cop, and I’d heard plenty on that subject.
I turned toward the elevators. “Good night, Deanna.”
“I’ll be around,” she called after me.
I stepped into the elevator and hit the button for my floor. As the doors slid shut, I sagged into the handrail. I needed to warn Gideon, but there was no way for me to contact him that couldn’t be traced.
The ache in my chest intensified. Our relationship was so fucked up. We couldn’t even talk to each other.
I exited on my floor and let myself into my apartment, crossing the spacious living room to dump my purse on one of the kitchen bar stools. The view of Manhattan showcased through my living room’s floor-to-ceiling windows failed to stir me. I was too agitated to care where I was. The only thing that mattered was that I wasn’t with Gideon.